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Development. 1998 May;125(10):1899-907.

Selective disruption of neuregulin-1 function in vertebrate embryos using ribozyme-tRNA transgenes.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


The products of the neuregulin-1 gene constitute a set of polypeptide growth factors whose signalling through the ErbB receptors is essential to the growth and differentiation of many cell types in culture. Although studies with neuregulin-1 mutant mice have demonstrated that these growth factors are also essential regulators of cellular differentiation in vivo, the mid-embryonic death of these mutants precludes an analysis of hypothesized neuregulin-1 roles in later aspects of development. To circumvent this early lethality, we have pursued a ribozyme-based strategy for the perturbation of neuregulin-1 function in developing chick embryos. Early administration of a retrovirus carrying neuregulin-1 hammerhead-type ribozymes to blastoderm-stage embryos leads to an embryonic lethal phenotype that results from the failure of ventricular trabeculation in the developing heart, a faithful phenocopy of the mouse neuregulin-1 mutations. Later, more localized delivery of the ribozyme to the developing retina inhibits both the differentiation of retinal ganglion cell neurons and the proliferation of the neuroepithelial cells from which they derive. These results suggest that neuregulin-1 promotes both muscle cell differentiation in the heart and neuronal differentiation in the central nervous system. In addition, they demonstrate the utility of hammerhead ribozymes as a simple, effective and easily adaptable method of conditional gene inactivation in vertebrates.

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